Developing Musicianship with Garage Band Theory

My son has had an interest in music since he was just four years old. While immersed in a theme study of classical music he stated, “I want to be like Bach. I want to play piano.” His persistence led us to begin private piano lessons with an instructor.

While he was younger, he would spend hours at the piano, practicing the pieces he was working on with his teacher and even composing his own Sonatas and Preludes. Though his knowledge of theory and composition were limited, his eagerness to learn and his ability to pick up new music was remarkable.

Reading sheet music has never been easy for my son. When he was an infant, he was diagnosed with congenital nystagmus, a condition whereupon his eyes move rapidly and uncontrollably from side to side. As my brothers are also afflicted with nystagmus, I had some familiarity with the condition.

His ability to play music has thereby always surpassed his ability to read sheet music. He has thereby learned to play by ear, a skill by which musicians learn to identify, solely by hearing pitches, intervals, melody, chords, rhythms, and other basic elements of music.

Garage Band Theory

We received a copy of Garage Band Theory in exchange for an honest review. I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product.  
All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Learn to Play by Ear

When learning a new piece, my son’s piano teacher would first play a few measures herself and after watching carefully, he would imitate the fingering. Within a few tries, he would be able to also match the intervals and rhythm perfectly.

As he got older and he wanted to learn a new song, he would find videos on YouTube and would watch clips over and over until he could play each measure.

He recently took part in his first adjudicated piano recital. One-on-one with a master teacher, his technique, music theory, sight reading, rhythm reading, and repertoire skills were critiqued. In preparation for the Syllabus, my son’s technique and repertoire were determined to be three to four levels higher than his music theory and sight reading skills.

He thereby tested much lower than he could have. In writing a thank you note to his adjudicator, he noted that his goal for 2018 is to test at the higher level. To do so, he needs to bring his theory knowledge up.

Much to our delight, we discovered Garage Band Theory, a book that teaches traditional music theory with the purpose of helping students learn to play by ear.

As students work through the lessons in this massive book, they  develop a solid foundation of practical music theory. This will propel them further as they begin or continue with formal music lessons.

Author Duke Sharp has done a remarkable job of creating a guide that requires no previous musical experience. Best of all, it  is suitable for any instrument.

Garage Band Theory

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Play Multiple Instruments

Anyone who reads my blog or follows me on social media knows that I am a huge Prince fan. His musicianship is unrivaled partly because he was capable of playing just about any instrument.

What I love about Garage Band Theory is that it includes tabs for guitar, mandolin, banjo, as well as piano. It also includes various different scales, arpeggios, and songs. Students can quickly look at the musical staff and see how it relates differently to other instruments.

“Something for every musician at any level. Especially helpful is the musical notation and tablature for a variety of instruments. This book inspires me to learn and practice more.”  ~ Sam Bush

Collaborate with Others

To develop one’s musicianship skills, it is important to play with others. In addition to the many musicians who have played in his live band, Prince made a very large name for himself crafting some of the greatest songs for other artists.

In addition to private lessons, you’ll want to consider group lessons, ensembles, community orchestra. While my son has not yet had the opportunity to play with others, we do plan to join a community orchestra this fall. He’s apprehensive as he fears he is too young but the director and other members are excited for him to take part as they don’t have a pianist.

Learn Music Theory with Garage Band Theory

A professional musician for over 30 years with five CDs to his credit, Duke Sharp has taught music the past decade. He has invested 13 years in writing and editing Garage Band Theory. The definitive DIY guide to learning music theory, it is over 500 pages but is written in a conversational style.

Garage Band Theory will help you:

  • Master the two aspects of playing by memory: understanding what you’re doing and coordinating sound production
  • Analyze what your favorite artists are playing
  • Play any song in any key
  • Anticipate ‘what’s coming next’ — the key skill you need to improvise
  • Figure out chords on your own and play basic progressions for any musical genre

My son is just beginning to invest the time required in learning music theory. The concepts will definitely take time and effort, but with Duke as a mentor, he’ll be jamming in no time.

If you’d like to know more about Garage Band Theory, you can visit Duke’s Garage Band Theory website. You can also follow Duke at the Garage Band Theory Facebook page.

 

What I Learned About Life and Spirituality from Prince

When I heard that Prince had passed away, I was substitute teaching in a kindergarten classroom. My mother-in-law had texted me and I immediately pulled out my phone to confirm. It couldn’t be true.

It was the first time the death of a celebrity hit me in a real and immediate way. There was first disbelief, followed by dread and nausea. I struggled to keep it together until the dismissal bell released me. Then the tears that wrung out of my body were so strong it gave me stomach cramps.Prince Lessons

I drove home and immediately crawled into bed. I got a call from my mom asking if I was okay. She knew my heartache for she had experienced a similar loss when Elvis passed.

I am very grateful that my mother recognized his impact on my life very early. She purchased my first concert ticket for his Lovesexy tour in 1988 and drove seven hours one way to assure I could see him perform live.

“I’m a musician. I am music.” ~ Prince 

I would see him perform once more in Portland in 2004 for Musicology. I had hoped to see his Piano & a Microphone tour in 2016 but missed my chance.

Since his death on April 21, 2016, I have watched numerous video clips of his live performances, interviews, and amateur tour footage that have been shared online. The explosion of material now available have provided his #PurpleArmy with the solace we seek, an opportunity for one more connection with him.

Prince Rogers Nelson

Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents, Mattie Della and John Lewis Nelson, and grandparents were from Louisiana.  His parents separated when he was ten years and he subsequently repeatedly switched homes often as a teen. Yet music was always a strong element in his life.

Prince first began recording in 1975 with 94 East. A year later he signed a recording contract with Warner Bros whereupon they agreed to give him complete creative control.

His talent was limitless. He was a master composer, musician, and revolutionary artist. I dare say there is not a single artist in my lifetime who has influenced the sound and trajectory of music as much as he.

“I’m no different to anyone. Yes, I have fame and wealth and talent, but I certainly don’t consider myself any better than anyone who has no fame, wealth or talent. People fascinate me. They’re amazing! Life fascinates me! And I’m no more fascinated by my own life than by anyone else’s.” ~ Prince

A Legacy of Equality

I first discovered Prince while watching Night Tracks on TBS. They had aired two performances by him back-to-back, Little Red Corvette and 1999. I was immediately attracted to the music and his individuality. He was like no one else. He was different.

“I don’t really care so much about what people say about me. It usually is a reflection of who they are. For example, if people wish that I would sound the way I used to sound, it says more about them, than it does me.” ~ Prince

As the years progressed, his style evolved. Through it all, strong female musicians were an integral part of his band. They were not solely backup singers or dancers (though he did have those as well) but his partners – Wendy Melvoin, Sheila E., Rosie Gaines, and Candy Duffer amongst others.

Emma Garland recently stated that women are generally portrayed as passive objects in music, which is to not exist at all. “With Prince, they were addressed with awe and empathy. He wrote about women as real, powerful, complicated, sensitive, and sexual beings that he could learn from, and who enriched his life.”

Prince_FreeA Legacy of Freedom

He caught the media’s attention early in his career with his stage presence and outrageous costumes. Many of his songs were overtly sexual. Yet, Prince never made any apologies for who he was and always preached that the most important thing is staying true to yourself.

“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.” ~ Prince

He showed me early the power of living one’s life by one’s own rules and no one else’s. He empowered me to walk my own path and to not be persuaded by others to follow the crowd.

Throughout every emotionally difficult time in my life, I’ve sang the lyrics to his songs in my mind. Repeating stanzas like a mantra. The song that had the biggest impact on me was most assuredly Free (lyrics shown above).

A Legacy of Compassion

Prince was also a secret philanthropist, supporting causes including youth empowerment, animal rights, racial justice, and clean energy for all. His compassion for the others was an important part of his legacy.

“Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.” ~ Prince

The legendary musician was renowned for speaking out on behalf of those who were vulnerable and voiceless. According to federal tax forms, his charity, Love 4 One Another, gave more than $1.5 million between 2005 and 2007 alone.

A new mural of Prince has been unveiled from 10:10 on Vimeo.

The climate charity 10:10 recently commissioned a new mural in honor of Prince’s contributions to environmental causes in Camden, north London. The mural kicks off their six-week campaign to provide solar panels to food banks and charities – groups that reflect the commitment to community, creativity and humanity that Prince demonstrated in life with his secret philanthropy.

“If you ever lose someone dear to you, never say the words, ‘They’re gone.’ They’ll come back.” ~ Prince

When he gave, he made only one request, to not publicize it. He wanted no publicity or accolades for the gifts he bestowed. Many of those who were impacted by his generosity only began sharing of his compassion after he had passed.

A Legacy of Love

Throughout his career, he brought cultures together. Uniting sexes and working to instill his message of love for one another. His fans or #PurpleArmy continue to share his vision.

Spirituality has always been a part of his music. Prince’s musical and lyrical explorations of spiritual themes are evident in each and every album he released. More importantly, he embodied and lived by his spiritual principals.

So many reasons why
There’s so many reasons why
I don’t belong here
But now that I am I
Without fear I am
Gonna conquer with no fear
Until I find my way back home

~ Prince, “Way Back Home”

When I think of Prince, both his music and his life overall, I don’t so much think about religion. When I think of him, I think of love—not romantic or sexual love—but unconditional, human love. A love that transcends gender, race, or religion. A love not limited to one’s family, social circle, community or nation. A love we are most in need of cultivating if we are to grow and evolve.

Prince logo.svg

Like the Blues? Make Your Own Diddley Bow

The diddley bow is a single-stringed American instrument which influenced the development of the blues sound. It was traditionally considered a starter or children’s instrument in the Deep South, especially in the African American community. Other nicknames for this instrument include “jitterbug” or “one-string”.diddleybows

A local teacher has received significant acclaim for a folk instrument unit study he has implemented in his classroom. As a result, he has also coordinated with the local art museum to share his knowledge and skill with the local community. We were recently able to take part in his diddley bow workshop and what a treat!

What is a Diddley Bow?

The lineage of the diddley bow goes back thousands of years. The first prototype diddley bow (in the style also known as a Musical Bow) was painted on cave walls in France upwards of 15,000 years ago!

Here’s a video of American blues musician, Seasick Steve, doing what he does best on a diddley bow:

Traditionally, diddley bows were made using a plank with two nails/posts with a tightened string stretched between them. When that string is plucked or struck with a stick, and a smooth hard object is used as a slide and moved up and down on the string, different pitches result and melodies can be played.

How Does it Work?

The parts of the guitar change vibrations from the string into sound. The string diameter, length, and tension determine the note that is played.

Guitar strings come in various diameters. Thick strings produce low notes, thin strings produce high notes.

String tension is adjusted with the tuning peg. String length is measured from the nut to the bridge.

On a conventional guitar, the string length is changed by pushing the string against a fret. On a diddley bow, a slide is used to change the string length while playing.diddleybow3

Make Your Own

A Diddley Bow is traditionally made of spare parts and a wide variety of parts can be used. We started by choosing an old fence board as our base. We used a cookie or candy tin for the resonator. The instructor shared a few he had made that utilized a glass bottle and as Steve demonstrated in the video, even an old tin can will work.

We used a bulldog clip for the spacer, other workshop participants used a bottle cap and a screw. We also used guitar strings that were donated by a local music store but I’ve read that traditionally, the wire from an old straw broom were preferred.  Lastly, a corner bracket, an eye-screw, and an old fence board were all we needed to attach the string. Two 16-penny nails will also do the job.

diddleybow2Procedure:

  1.  Screw a small corner bracket onto one end of a recycled fence board, a couple of inches from the end. Screw an eye-screw onto the opposite end.
  2. Center the cookie tin atop the board just a few inches away from the corner bracket.
  3. Thread the guitar string through the center hole of the corner bracket and lay the string across the cookie tin.
  4. Thread the string though the eye-screw at the opposite side of the board and continue to twist the screw until the string is tight across the length of the board. The cookie tin will be held in place by this tension.
  5. Place a bulldog clip atop the cookie tin to lift up the string a bit. It is okay if the string touches the tin on the side closest to the corner bracket (the bottom side of the board). You don’t want it to touch, however, on the upper side. The bulldog clip is a spacer designed to lift the string up off the tin.
  6. Use a permanent marker to make marks on the board to indicated the different notes. This is done by ear. As you pluck the strings and slide a metal object (a small metal cylinder, for example) along the string, you can hear the pitch change as the string vibrates.
  7. Make a mark with a permanent marker to record the position of the bulldog clip. If it gets bumped and moved, it will change the position of the notes.

You can gather scrap materials yourself as we did or purchase a ready-to-assemble kit. There are several to choose from online, here are a couple to get you started:

Complete Cigar Diddley Bow Kit – This is a complete, ready-to-assemble cigar box diddley bow kit designed in the C. B. Gitty workshops to allow just about anyone to build a fun, easy-to-play instrument.  $24.99

Complete Cigar Box Guitar Kit – This kit contains all of the parts you need to complete your cigar box guitar – the box, neck, hardware and strings. Everything is pre-drilled and pre-marked, so that all you have to do is put in the screws, tap in the string ferrules, string it up and start playing. $79.99
Handmade Music Factory – Intrigued? Learn how to make eight of the most creative, unique-sounding, handmade instruments you’ll find anywhere with this fully illustrated guide. $17.57

The History of Classical Music {includes 4 FREE Printables}

One of the first curricula I purchased when we began our homeschool journey was Themes To Remember. It is designed to help anyone (particularly children) to recognize 40 classical music themes, to know the name of the composer of each theme, and to be knowledgeable about and love classical music.

These past two weeks I have been donning a new hat as I substitute for an elementary music teacher. I will see each class four times and thus this book is perfect – one lesson each for the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, & Modern periods of music. All of the classes – kinder to fifth have really enjoyed it!! 

The History of Classical Music @EvaVarga.net

“Don’t only practice your art,
but force your way into its secrets,
for it and knowledge can
raise men to the divine.”
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

Over the weekend I was inspired to create a foldable for each of the musical eras we have covered: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern. I am delighted to now share these FREEBIES with YOU!! Read on to get the download links.

I have also created an outline to summarize some of the material I covered in each lesson.  I only had time to cover three-four composers from each era, Themes To Remember covers much more. I highly recommend the book if you desire to integrate classical music into your curriculum.

The History of Classical Music: The Baroque Era @EvaVarga.netThe Baroque Era

1600-1750 – Composers wrote predominantly for church and royal family

The music was very ornate with lots of trills and grace notes.

Antonio Vivaldi

  1. Born in 1678 in Italy
  2. Initially a priest and then teacher at all-girls orphanage
  3. Developed concerto form of music (composition for orchestra featuring a solo, often violin)
  4. Spring from The Four Seasons
  5. The Piano Guys – Winter from The Four Seasons + Let it Go from Frozen

Johann Sebastian Bach

  1. Born in 1685 in Germany
  2. 20 children, all accomplished musicians
  3. Organ was his predominant instrument and thus composed for church
  4. Toccata en Fugue in D minor (two segments)

George Frideric Handel

  1. Born in 1685 in Germany
  2. Initially studied to be lawyer before turning to music
  3. Traveled to Italy  to study  with Vivaldi where he learned opera style
  4. Traveled to England
    1. Queen Ann hired him to write Italian Operas, which she loved
    2. King George I employed him to write Water Music
    3. King George II employed him to write Royal Fireworks Music

Download the free Baroque Era printable.

~ ~ ~

The History of Classical Music: The Classical Era @EvaVarga.netThe Classical Era

1750-1820 – Composers wrote mostly for the rich upper classes, the aristocracy

The music stressed control of form and emotions

Franz Joseph Haydn

  1. Born in 1732 in Austria
  2. “Father of the Symphony”
  3. Poor as a child
  4. Symphony No 94 – movement 2

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  1. Born in 1756 in Austria
  2. Greatest composer ever
  3. Symphony No. 40 – movement 1
  4. The Piano Guys – Michael Meets Mozart

Ludwig van Beethoven

  1. Born in 1770 in Germany
  2. Moody & hot tempered, made his own rules
  3. Deaf at 31
  4. Sonata 14 (Moonlight)
  5. The Piano Guys – Beethoven’s Five Secrets

Download the free Classical Era printable.

~ ~ ~

The History of Classical Music: The Romantic Era @EvaVarga.netThe Romantic Era

1820-1900 – Composers wrote for the rising middle class, much of the music was composed to accompany fairy tales

he music stressed the dignity and freedom of man, nature, the hero-warrior, and emotion

Gioachino Antonio Rossini

  1. Born in 1792 in Italy
  2. William Tell Overture

Frédéric François Chopin

  1. Born in 1810 in Poland
  2. Left Russian-occupied Poland at twenty, making France his home
  3. Used sounds of many Polish national dances in his music
  4. Grande valse brillante

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

  1. Born in 1840 in Russia
  2. His ballets especially captivating for children – Sleeping Beauty & Nutcracker Suite
  3. Swan Lake

Edvard Hagerup Grieg

  1. Born in 1843 in Norway
  2. Short in stature
  3. Like other composers of his time, proud of his country
  4. Peer Gynt Suite
    1. Solveig’s Song
    2. Hall of the Mountain King

The Piano Guys – One Direction: What Makes You Beautiful

Download the free Romantic Era printable.

~ ~ ~

The History of Classical Music: The Modern Era @EvaVarga.netThe Modern Era

1900-present – Composers began to experiment with new forms, harmonies, and rhythms more than ever before.

New styles of music were developed including jazz, electronic, pop, and reggae.

Claude-Achille Debussy

  1. Born in 1862 in France
  2. Said to have begun the Modern Period with his impressionist style
  3. Wrote much of his music for piano
  4. Created new chords and new scales – much to the irritation of his teachers
  5. Clair de lune (Moonlight) 

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff

  1. Born in 1873 in Russia
  2. Left Russia with his wife and two daughters during the Russian Revolution of 1917, never to return
  3. Virtuoso pianist and specialized in the music of Chopin as well as his own
  4. Piano Concerto No. 2 Mvt 3

John Philip Sousa

  1. Born in 1854 in the United States
  2. America’s best remembered and favorite bandmaster
  3. Wrote more than 100 marches and is thus known as the “March King”
  4. Toured Europe four times with his concert band and there introduced Europeans to America’s ragtime music
  5. Upon return, on tour in the states, he introduced America to the music of Tchaikovsky, Rossini, and others
  6. Semper Fidelis
  7. The Stars and Stripes Forever

Download the free Modern Era printable.

~ ~ ~

I have had a fabulous time teaching this mini-unit. It is so fun to share with kids the joys of classical music. Several kiddos have come up to me at recess to share that they googled The Piano Guys when they got home. Others have given me high fives and hugs in the hallway. A mother (and teacher in the building) told me her child (in kinder) came home and exclaimed, “Did you know Vivaldi and Bach were composers?” So very cool.

Teaching Music Theory & Composition

My son has been interested in music for a long time. When he was four years old he exclaimed, “I want to be like Bach!” At the time, I thought it may be a passing phase. Little did I know how much music would be a part of our lifestyle.

We’ve always tried to cultivate their passions. It has now been nearly 7 years and my kids have taken music lessons every week (my son piano and my daughter violin). My son’s passion for piano has never wavered. In fact, this past year he begged to increase his lesson time from 30 minutes to an hour. My daughter expressed interest in auditioning for youth symphony earlier this year.

musictheoryMusic Theory

It has been fascinating to watch my children progress in their music education. Each approaches their lessons in dramatically different ways, staying true to their unique personalities.  We are fortunate to have a music teacher who is adept at teaching each of the kids according to their unique styles.

Even so, I have known for sometime that we needed something more, particularly for my son. We needed an instructional guide to music theory that was not overwhelming (he is only 10 after all) and not too “babyish” as my son would say. When I found The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory from DK Publishing, I knew this was exactly what we needed – not only for my son but for myself as well.  {Many thanks to DK Publishing for providing the book to us for review. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.}

This book breaks down a difficult subject in a simple way – with clear, concise language, it explains everything from bass clef basics to circle of fifths. I feel that this is a solid guide for children interested in music composition as well as people either new to music or who are returning to playing an instrument, like me.

Contents at a Glance:

  • Tones
  • Rhythms
  • Tunes
  • Accompanying
  • Embellishing
  • Arranging

musiccompositionMusic Composition

As a result of my daughter’s interest in symphony, we have begun to attend regular performances both locally and regionally. A few weeks ago, we stumbled upon a DVD at our local library, Copying Beethoven and I thought it was the perfect accompaniment to our recent experiences.

My daughter didn’t care too much for the movie but my son watched from start to finish. I should not have been surprised to observe him a few days later listening to a performance on YouTube of Beethoven’s Symphony No.5. He had the iPad propped up on his piano with the sheet music laid out on top. With a pencil in his right hand, he proceeded to conduct the musicians through the piece. He was as intense as the conductors we’ve observed perform.

He then shared with me the symphony that he is writing. Though his work is rudimentary, I was amazed to see that he had correctly transcribed the notes he played.

We have just begun to work through the chapters in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music TheoryAlready, I can see an improvement in his performance as well as his music composition. I look forward to the doors his experiences will open.

Finishing Strong #44: Passions & Future Goals Edition

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Finishing Strong. We are a link up that supports families as they homeschool their middle & high school children.

Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #44

Make sure to visit our co-hosts: Aspired Living, Blog, She Wrote, Education Possible, Eva Varga, & Starts at Eight

As our kids grow, we are given unique insight in to their passions and potential future goals. Recently, a number of bloggers shared their personal experiences raising children with distinct paths and interests.

Not only were they fun to read, but they were also some of our most popular links from last week.

How to Grow a Reader from Blog, She Wrote

Growing an Introverted Warrior from Education Possible

Growing a Musician from Eva Varga

Homeschooling a Horse Lover from Our Journey Westward

4 Tips for Raising a Crafty Kid from The Sunny Patch

What makes your child one-of-a-kind? What endeavors are you fostering while homeschooling your teen?

We would love to hear about your family’s experience teaching middle & high schoolers at home, so link up with us below.

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